Friday, July 1, 2016

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Oracle Speaks

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight is out with his first general election forecast: Donald Trump has a 20% chance of winning the presidency.

Giving Trump a 20 percent or 25 percent chance of becoming president means that Clinton has a 75 percent to 80 percent chance. That might seem generous given that, under ordinary circumstances, the background conditions of this election (no incumbent running and a mediocre economy) would seem to suggest a tossup. Are Clinton’s high odds justified on the basis of the polls? Or do they require making heroic assumptions about Trump, the same ones that got everyone, emphatically including yours truly, in trouble during the primaries?

The short answer is that 20 percent or 25 percent is a pretty reasonable estimate of Trump’s chances based on the polls and other empirical evidence. In fact, that’s quite close to where FiveThirtyEight’s statistical models, which are launching today, have the race. Our polls-only model has Trump with a 19 percent chance of beating Clinton as of early Wednesday afternoon. (The forecasts will continually update as new polls are added.) Our polls-plus model, which considers economic conditions along with the polls, is more optimistic about Trump, giving him a 26 percent chance.

Still, Trump faces longer odds and a bigger polling deficit than John McCain and Mitt Romney did at the same point in their respective races. He needs to look back to 1988 for comfort, when George H.W. Bush overcame a similar deficit against Michael Dukakis to win. Our models are built from data since 1972, so the probabilities we list account for elections such as 1980, 1988 and 1992, when the polls swung fairly wildly, along with others, such as 2004 and 2012, where the polls were quite stable.

Let’s do the numbers.

I know I say it every time I post a poll, but here it is again: take nothing for granted.  I have seen too many polls in June that sealed the deal, and we all remember going to the McGovern, Mondale, and Dukakis inaugural balls, right?

Trumpspam

Sheesh, what a dope.

Numerous members of the British parliament have complained that they have received multiple emails from the Trump campaign asking for a donation.

But wait, there’s more.

Accepting contributions from foreign nationals is illegal of course though in this case it seems more a matter of incompetence than criminal intent, as though Trump has bought his email list not for a party list vendor but maybe from a Nigerian email scammer. In any case, it’s not just the UK. It turns out some or perhaps all members of the Icelandic parliament have also receiving fundraising emails from the Trump campaign asking for money.

He’s gone to the other end of the world: Australia reports they’re getting them, too.

This is gotten the attention of people who regulate these sort of things.

Fred Werthemier, the president of Democracy 21, said that Trump’s fundraising pleas to foreign members of parliament are “a strange and unique development that we have not seen before in campaign fundraising.”

Campaign finance law prohibits campaigns from knowingly accepting or soliciting contributions from foreign nationals. It’s not clear whether the Trump campaign purposefully sent the emails to foreign members of parliament.

Also, a number of Nigerian princes and Russian widows are complaining about Trump going after their business.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

No-Shows

It used to be that being invited to speak at your party’s convention was a big deal and a road to political stardom.  Think of Barack Obama in 2004, or Mario Cuomo in 1980, at their Democratic conventions.  But this time around, the GOP is beating the bushes — so to speak — to get anyone to stand up for the Trump show.

With the convention less than a month away, POLITICO contacted more than 50 prominent governors, senators and House members to gauge their interest in speaking. Only a few said they were open to it, and everyone else said they weren’t planning on it, didn’t want to or weren’t going to Cleveland at all — or simply didn’t respond.

“I am not attending,” said South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, who is overseeing the high-profile congressional Republican investigation into Hillary Clinton’s handling of the attacks on Benghazi. Gowdy, who said he was taking his family to the beach instead, hasn’t gone to conventions in the past and didn’t plan to now.

“I’m not,” said South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, a former two-term governor. “But hope you have a good Thursday!”

“Don’t know,” said Sean Duffy, a reality-TV-star-turned-Wisconsin congressman. “I haven’t thought about it.”

Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo: “I won’t be there.”

The widespread lack of interest, Republicans say, boils down to one thing: the growing consensus that it’s best to steer clear of Trump.

[…]

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte “is not attending the convention,” said a spokeswoman. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner “is not attending the convention,” his office said. A spokesman for South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham: “He announced back in May he’s not attending.” For South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley: “The governor has not been asked to speak at the convention and has no plans to.” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn: “There are no plans for him to speak.”

Not to worry; there are some folks who are really looking forward to going to Cleveland for the fun.  That’s assuming, however, they can get their white robes back from the cleaners and permission from their parole officers.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Pale Comparison

Jamelle Bouie at Slate explains that just because embittered white folks helped carry the narrow vote for Britain to leave the E.U., it doesn’t necessarily make it so that Donald Trump will win over here.

Here in the United States, our polls show a substantial Trump loss in the general election against Hillary Clinton, just as they showed a substantial Trump win in the Republican presidential primaries. The chief reason is that, unlike the U.K., the U.S. has a large voting population of nonwhites: Latinos, black Americans, Asian Americans, etc. In Britain, “black and minority ethnic” people make up about 8 percent of the electorate. By contrast, people of color account for nearly 1 in 3 American voters. In practice, this means that in the past two national elections, there has been an electoral penalty for embracing the most reactionary elements of national life. And we see this in the polling between Trump and Clinton. If the United States were largely white—if its electorate were as monochromatic as Britain’s—then Trump might have the advantage. As it stands, people of color in America are acting as a firewall for liberalism—an indispensable barrier to this surge of ethno-nationalism. Complacency isn’t called for, but confidence isn’t wrong either.

The other thing to remember is that not all ethnic groups vote as a bloc.  Yes, the vast majority of African-Americans belong in the Democratic camp, as do a number of Hispanic/Latino voters, but it’s not because they all agree on the party platform or prefer Hillary Clinton over Mr. Trump.  The reasons are as varied as the make-up of the blocs, and by and large they’re not as socially liberal or as willing to separate church and state as your average Democrat.  Indeed, the family structure and religious affiliation are powerful elements that would have you believe that they should go along with the hacked and cynical appeal to “family values” that has become the rallying cry of the GOP over the last forty years.

The main reason is that when it comes to being embittered and embattled, the complaints of the cranky old white folks or the gun-rattling stars-and-bars wavers pale — literally — when compared to the everyday racism and indignities faced by people of color in America.

So no, the Democrats shouldn’t take a single vote or bloc for granted, but at least when it comes to knowing who’s got your back and who’s more likely to burden it, the answer is pretty black and white.

Short Takes

Supreme Court strikes down restrictive abortion rights.

Supreme Court upholds ban on gun sales to those convicted of domestic violence.

U.K. politics in meltdown after Brexit.

Volkswagen agrees to settle U.S. emissions scandal for $14.7 billion.

Clinton and Warren hit the campaign trail in Ohio.

Monday, June 27, 2016

He’s All Yours, George

George F. Will has left the GOP thanks to Donald Trump.

Will, a conservative writer for the Washington Post, confirmed to PJ Media that he switched his Maryland party registration from GOP to unaffiliated.

At a meeting of the Federalist Society Friday in D.C., Will told the group it’s worth refusing to back Trump even if it hands the election to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“This is not my party,” he told the group. “Make sure he loses. Grit their teeth for four years and win the White House.”

Funny, it was his party when they basically held the country hostage and used thinly-veiled racism and dog whistles to do everything to destroy President Obama, not to mention the trashing of the Clintons and supporting a war started on lies, but now that they have someone who says all of that out loud, he decides to flounce?

Set it to music, George.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sunday Reading

Up Yours, Trump — Aziz Ansari in the New York Times on why Donald Trump makes him scared for his family.

“DON’T go anywhere near a mosque,” I told my mother. “Do all your prayer at home. O.K.?”

“We’re not going,” she replied.

I am the son of Muslim immigrants. As I sent that text, in the aftermath of the horrible attack in Orlando, Fla., I realized how awful it was to tell an American citizen to be careful about how she worshiped.

Being Muslim American already carries a decent amount of baggage. In our culture, when people think “Muslim,” the picture in their heads is not usually of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or the kid who left the boy band One Direction. It’s of a scary terrorist character from “Homeland” or some monster from the news.

Today, with the presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and others like him spewing hate speech, prejudice is reaching new levels. It’s visceral, and scary, and it affects how people live, work and pray. It makes me afraid for my family. It also makes no sense.

There are approximately 3.3 million Muslim Americans. After the attack in Orlando, The Times reported that the F.B.I. is investigating 1,000 potential “homegrown violent extremists,” a majority of whom are most likely connected in some way to the Islamic State. If everyone on that list is Muslim American, that is 0.03 percent of the Muslim American population. If you round that number, it is 0 percent. The overwhelming number of Muslim Americans have as much in common with that monster in Orlando as any white person has with any of the white terrorists who shoot up movie theaters or schools or abortion clinics.

I asked a young friend of mine, a woman in her 20s of Muslim heritage, how she had been feeling after the attack. “I just feel really bad, like people think I have more in common with that idiot psychopath than I do the innocent people being killed,” she said. “I’m really sick of having to explain that I’m not a terrorist every time the shooter is brown.”

I myself am not a religious person, but after these attacks, anyone that even looks like they might be Muslim understands the feelings my friend described. There is a strange feeling that you must almost prove yourself worthy of feeling sad and scared like everyone else.

I understand that as far as these problems go, I have it better than most because of my recognizability as an actor. When someone on the street gives me a strange look, it’s usually because they want to take a selfie with me, not that they think I’m a terrorist.

But I remember how those encounters can feel. A few months after the attacks of Sept. 11, I remember walking home from class near N.Y.U., where I was a student. I was crossing the street and a man swore at me from his car window and yelled: “Terrorist!” To be fair, I may have been too quick to cross the street as the light changed, but I’m not sure that warranted being compared to the perpetrators of one of the most awful incidents in human history.

The vitriolic and hate-filled rhetoric coming from Mr. Trump isn’t so far off from cursing at strangers from a car window. He has said that people in the American Muslim community “know who the bad ones are,” implying that millions of innocent people are somehow complicit in awful attacks. Not only is this wrongheaded; but it also does nothing to address the real problems posed by terrorist attacks. By Mr. Trump’s logic, after the huge financial crisis of 2007-08, the best way to protect the American economy would have been to ban white males.

According to reporting by Mother Jones, since 9/11, there have been 49 mass shootings in this country, and more than half of those were perpetrated by white males. I doubt we’ll hear Mr. Trump make a speech asking his fellow white males to tell authorities “who the bad ones are,” or call for restricting white males’ freedoms.

One way to decrease the risk of terrorism is clear: Keep military-grade weaponry out of the hands of mentally unstable people, those with a history of violence, and those on F.B.I. watch lists. But, despite sit-ins and filibusters, our lawmakers are failing us on this front and choose instead to side with the National Rifle Association. Suspected terrorists can buy assault rifles, but we’re still carrying tiny bottles of shampoo to the airport. If we’re going to use the “they’ll just find another way” argument, let’s use that to let us keep our shoes on.

Xenophobic rhetoric was central to Mr. Trump’s campaign long before the attack in Orlando. This is a guy who kicked off his presidential run by calling Mexicans “rapists” who were “bringing drugs” to this country. Numerous times, he has said that Muslims in New Jersey were cheering in the streets on Sept. 11, 2001. This has been continually disproved, but he stands by it. I don’t know what every Muslim American was doing that day, but I can tell you what my family was doing. I was studying at N.Y.U., and I lived near the World Trade Center. When the second plane hit, I was on the phone with my mother, who called to tell me to leave my dorm building.

The haunting sound of the second plane hitting the towers is forever ingrained in my head. My building was close enough that it shook upon impact. I was scared for my life as my fellow students and I trekked the panicked streets of Manhattan. My family, unable to reach me on my cellphone, was terrified about my safety as they watched the towers collapse. There was absolutely no cheering. Only sadness, horror and fear.

Mr. Trump, in response to the attack in Orlando, began a tweet with these words: “Appreciate the congrats.” It appears that day he was the one who was celebrating after an attack.

Lost Remains — John Cassidy in The New Yorker on why the Remain vote lost in Britain.

To many people around the world, the United Kingdom’s vote, on Thursday, to quit the European Union came as a great shock. But the result, with fifty-two per cent of voters in favor leaving the E.U., shouldn’t have been such a surprise. The fact is, the E.U. has never been particularly popular with ordinary people in the U.K., particularly England, and in the weeks leading up to the vote many opinion polls showed the Leave side with a narrow lead. The financial markets and most commentators, myself included, were assuming that, at the last minute, prudence and risk aversion would generate a swing in favor of Remain. That didn’t happen.

The easiest way to understand what did happen is to look at some voting maps. With the exceptions of London, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, every major region of the U.K. voted to exit the E.U. The Remain vote was particularly weak in the West Midlands and the Northeast of England, two areas that have been hit hard by de-industrialization. But even in the relatively prosperous Southeast of the country, if you subtract London from the results, a majority of people voted to leave.

The Guardian has published some telling charts detailing the demographic breakdown of the vote. For one thing, they show gaping class divisions. One of the best predictors of how people voted was their education level. Those with college degrees tended to opt for Remain, while people without them tended to opt for Leave. Age and income gradients were also clearly visible in the vote tabulations. The older and poorer you are, the more likely you were to vote Leave. The younger and richer you are, the more likely you were to vote Remain.

Put all this data together, and the implication is that, outside of Scotland and Northern Ireland, which are special cases, the British working classes and lower middle classes, particularly those living in the provinces, have delivered a stinging rebuke to the London-based political establishment, which was largely in favor of staying in the E.U. But what explains this revolt against the élites?

One popular theory points to racism and nativism, which featured prominently in the anti-E.U. campaign. The Leave side went up in the polls after it managed to shift the debate away from the likely economic impact of Brexit and onto immigration and issues of national sovereignty. Although much of the immigration into the U.K. comes from outside of the E.U., the Leave forces were able to focus attention on the freedom of movement for workers, which is one of the founding principles of the E.U.

In the past decade or so, Britain has taken in many thousands of immigrants from Poland, Romania, and other Eastern European countries that joined the European community after the Berlin Wall came down. In many working-class areas of the U.K., there is a lot of resentment toward these new arrivals, who are viewed as competitors for jobs and government-provided services, such as education, health care, and welfare. “A majority of people thought immigration is too large, and that leaving the E.U. would bring it down,” John Curtice, a political scientist at Strathclyde University who is also the BBC’s resident polling guru, said on-air on Thursday, as the results came in.

A second theory, which I examined in a post on Thursday, is that economic anxieties and resentments underpinned the political anger that fuelled the Leave vote. Demagogues such as Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, were able to exploit these economic worries, directing them against immigrants and other easy targets.

Yet another argument is that the Leave result was really about culture and values. Pointing to data collected by the British Election Study, Eric Kaufmann, a professor of politics at Birkbeck College, argued on Friday that the best predictor of voting patterns wasn’t income or education levels but attitudes toward the death penalty, which are a proxy for authoritarian attitudes more generally. “The probability of voting Brexit rises from around 20 per cent for those most opposed to the death penalty to 70 per cent for those most in favour,” Kaufman wrote on the Web site of the Fabian Society. “Wealthy people who back capital punishment back Brexit. Poor folk who oppose the death penalty support Remain.”

This is an interesting theory, but it doesn’t necessarily explain why hostility toward the E.U. has risen in the U.K. during the past couple of decades. Has the British public become more authoritarian and resistant to change during that period? I don’t think so; if anything, attitudes about gay marriage and other social issues show a shift in a liberal direction.

What has certainly happened is that decades of globalization, deregulation, and policy changes that favored the wealthy have left Britain a more unequal place, with vast regional disparities. “It’s the shape of our long lasting and deeply entrenched national geographic inequality that drove differences in voting patterns,” Torsten Bell, the director of the Resolution Foundation, a bipartisan think tank, commented on Friday morning. “The legacy of increased national inequality in the 1980s, the heavy concentration of those costs in certain areas, and our collective failure to address it has more to say about what happened last night than shorter term considerations from the financial crisis or changed migration flows.”

That argument sounds persuasive to me. On Thursday night, it was the early announcement of a huge Leave vote in Sunderland, a depressed city in the Northeast that used to be a big shipbuilding center, that indicated the way the night was headed and caused the pound sterling to plummet in the Asian markets. Meanwhile, the Remain vote was consistently stronger in prosperous areas. Economics matters.

Still, the margin of victory was narrow, and it is also worth looking at the way the Leave and Remain campaigns were run, and considering how things could have turned out differently. If the Remain side, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, had managed to persuade two in a hundred more voters to accept its arguments, it would have won. But the Remain campaign was uninspiring in the extreme.

In retrospect, it can be argued that Cameron’s mistake occurred as far back as 2013, when, in an effort to satisfy the Eurosceptics inside his own Conservative Party, he pledged to hold a referendum at some point before 2017. At the time, this was an easy promise to make: Cameron believed he couldn’t deliver on it. He was then heading a coalition government alongside the pro-E.U. Liberal Democrats, who wanted no part of a referendum and had the power to veto one. But after the Conservatives pulled off a surprise in the May, 2015, general election and won a majority in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister felt he had no option but to follow through on his promise.

Yet even after he had set a date for the referendum, Cameron could surely have done a better job of selling an upbeat vision of the E.U., one that had Britain as an active and enthusiastic member. Rather than accentuating the positive, Cameron and George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, sought to scare the electorate into voting their way, arguing that a vote for Leave would plunge the U.K. economy into a recession and cost the average household about sixty-two hundred dollars a year.

Almost all economists agree that the E.U. has been good to Britain. But the sixty-two-hundred-a-year figure was so large, and so specific, that many people didn’t believe it. Speaking to the BBC on Friday morning, Steve Hilton, a former political adviser to Cameron, conceded that the negative campaign, which was dubbed Project Fear, had backfired. Rather than winning people over, it alienated many voters who had legitimate concerns about the E.U. “People have expressed real anger at being ignored by the system, and I think this is at the heart” of what happened, Hilton said.

Looking ahead, the fate of the Remain campaign should serve as a reminder of the limits of negative campaigning—a reminder that Hillary Clinton would do well to take note of as she goes up against Donald Trump. In confronting populist demagoguery, it isn’t enough to attack its promulgators. To get people to turn out and vote in your favor, you also have to give them something positive to rally behind. The Leave campaign, for all its lies and disinformation, provided just such a lure. It claimed that liberating Britain from the shackles of the E.U. would enable it to reclaim its former glory. The Remain side argued, in effect, that while the E.U. isn’t great, Britain would be even worse off without it. That turned out to be a losing story.

How Orlando Hurt Puerto Rico — Jennifer Velez in Mother Jones on the heartbreak the shooting brought to the island.

As news of the June 12 shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando spread, families in Puerto Rico began to receive frantic calls about their sons, daughters, siblings, nephews, nieces, and cousins who had been celebrating a Latin-themed night of music and dancing in the crowded bar. They were among the 49 people who were dead after a gunman opened fire at the club around 2 a.m.; approximately 53 others were wounded before police killed the shooter.

As many as 23 of those who died were identified as being Puerto Rican. Although it’s unclear how many were actually born on the island, many of the victims had family there. As they grapple with the unspeakable loss of loved ones, these families also face unusual challenges in the wake of the largest mass shooting in US history, from the potentially steep cost of burial and other expenses, to navigating the complex web of victims’ services as a Spanish-speaker with limited English.

Although pledges to help are coming from the government,advocacy organizations, and private companies, even those families who receive some assistance may struggle to cover all the costs, especially those with large extended families who may have wanted to fly in and support relatives in Orlando. “Once they arrive here to be able to claim the remains of their loved ones, it’s like where do they stay? How do they get from point A to point B?” said Samí Haiman-Marrero, a local Orlando business owner and a part of the core team of Somos Orlando (“We Are Orlando”) a coalition of organizations that formed after the tragedy to act as a bridge between families who need assistance and organizations that can help. They have connected families with resources that offer a variety of services, including housing, or grief counseling in Spanish.

“It’s not just parents and immediate siblings perhaps that are traveling, we’re talking about large groups of family members trying to come,” Haiman-Marrero noted. “It’s a really tight knit community and so the mourning transcends beyond the typical nuclear family.” She described one family of 25 who traveled from Puerto Rico to Orlando and needed help with housing. “I got some calls directly from Puerto Rico [asking in Spanish], ‘We’re arriving tomorrow we need a place to stay, it’s five people a baby and that’s it. We need help,’” she said.

There are also other significant issues that families are facing—some are logistical, some financial, and some are cultural. Here is an overview:

Language is a barrier: When dealing with an emergency, being able to communicate with police, officials, and other key people is essential. For some victims’ families who do not speak English and only speak Spanish, something as simple as making a call to get information about a loved one can be a struggle. “For these families to travel from Puerto Rico…to pick up the body of their son or daughter, it’s heart breaking, their hearts are in pieces,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, executive director of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a social justice organization for the LGBTQ community in Puerto Rico. Adding to their grief, he says, “There are language barriers and there are cultural barriers.” When Haiman-Marrero got a call from Puerto Rico from a woman seeking housing for her and her family, Haiman-Marrero made sure the services she recommended had Spanish language support. “I made sure before I even provided the information to the young lady that called from Puerto Rico” those services would be in Spanish. “I didn’t want her to be scrambling.” The assistance center set up at Camping World Stadium for those affected by the massacre had help in both languages, said Haiman-Marrero.

Families who want to bury loved ones in PuertoRico may face hefty funeral expenses: If families want their loved ones to be buried on the island close to relatives, the process can be costly. The cost of shipping remains to Puerto Rico may include charges from the funeral home in Orlando, which would be responsible for sending the body to Puerto Rico, and additional expenses for the funeral home in Puerto Rico. Funeral services, the shipping of remains, and church services among other costs can run from $5,000 to $8,000, said Mariela Atkins, office manager at Robert Bryant Funeral & Cremation Chapel in Orlando, which provided services for three victims, one of whom was to be transported to Puerto Rico. But costs vary depending on what families desire, Atkins said. For example, the price of a casket has a broad range depending on the style, material, or size. A government victim’s compensation fund is also helping with funeral costs.

But some airlines are stepping in to help. United Airlines is providing the transportation of remains at no cost said Ida Eskamani, development officer for Equality Florida. Southwest is also providing transportation of the remains free of charge. JetBlue has offered complimentary travel for immediate family and domestic partners of victims.

Some groups are raising money to help, but funds have not yet reached the families: Equality Florida, the state’s LGBT civil rights organization, is part of the Somos Orlando coalition and has created a GoFundMe account that in the week after the shooting has raised more than $6 million. The organization partnered with the National Center for Victims of Crime to distribute funds to families. But no funds have reached victims’ families yet, said Mai Fernandez, executive director with the National Center for Victims of Crime. She explains that the organizations intended to wait to disburse funds until the pace of donations slowed and they can assess the total amount that is available for aid.

There are longstanding taboos about homosexuality in Puerto Rico: Pedro Julio-Serrano who runs the LGBT program based in Guaynabo has faced homophobia in Puerto Rico and understands a deep cultural problem that some families face. “It’s a very touchy subject, but some of the victims’ families found out that their victim was LGBT when this happened, so they will have to do deal with that,” he said. “It’s tragic that someone has to wait until they die for their family to find out that they are gay.” Some of the Puerto Rican victims moved to the U.S. mainland because they wanted to live in a environment that was more accepting of the LGBT community, he added.

Although some views about the LGBT community are slowly changing, the island’s machismo culture and strict, traditional views on gender roles are still dominant: Men should be masculine, emotionally tough, marry women, and have children. There is also a history of violence. In the 1980’s a serial killer on the island killed 27 gay men. Hate crimes have dwindled in recent years, Serrano said, but the homophobia and discrimination are still big problems. Some families are grappling with grief and must also cope with their own uncomfortable views about homosexuality.

“This [tragedy] is something that goes to the heart of who we are as Puerto Ricans,” Serrano notes. “We’re frightened, but we won’t live in fear.”

Doonesbury — Double or nothing.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Playing Whac-A-Mole In Handcuffs

Trying to keep up with Donald Trump’s lies about Hillary Clinton — or anything, for that matter — is a full-time job.  Knock one down and up pops another.

It’s hard to even know where to start; the lie-to-sentence ratio approached one to one. Trump said he opposed the war in Iraq before the 2003 invasion, which isn’t true. He said Clinton’s email server was hacked, which isn’t true. Trump said Clinton wants “totally open borders” and an end to “virtually all immigration enforcement,” which isn’t even close to being true.

Trump lied about Syrian refugees. He lied about the loan he received to start his business. He lied about U.S. tax rates. He lied about Benghazi (more than once). He lied about the Clinton Foundation. He lied about gifts Clinton received during her tenure as Secretary of State.

That makes Mr. Trump King of the Mole People.

Short Takes

House Democrats sit-in for a vote on gun control.

North Korea fires off two ballistic missiles.

Bernie Sanders: “It doesn’t appear I’ll be the nominee.”

Colombia and rebels agree to a cease-fire in 50-year conflict.

Michigan A.G. sues two companies over Flint water crisis.

The Tigers beat the Mariners 5-1.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

He’s Broke

And here we thought that Donald Trump was a billionaire.  But he can’t even scrape together enough cash to run ads this summer.

Reports suggest that Trump has been unwilling to undergo the ego effacement of calling high dollar Republican donors and asking for money. His campaign has virtually no money in the bank ($2.4m at last count).

Even if Trump can’t not be Trump, the damage of being Trump could at least be off-set by pouring money into advertising in key swing states and field work. But at this moment, the Clinton campaign (and pro-Clinton superPACs) is rolling out a barrage of targeted swing state advertising focused on solidifying and embedding the highly negative image Trump has built for himself over the last year and especially the last eight weeks. That advertising is going entirely unanswered by the Trump campaign.

[…]

Trump may be unwilling to abase himself by dialing for dollars and his digital fundraising may be anemic. But at the scale of Trump’s purported wealth, the sums in question are actually paltry. It may take a billion dollars to run a presidential campaign. But at this moment Trump is in dire need of a few million dollars. To go back to cash on hand, Trump currently has $2.4 million and Clinton has just over $30 million. Remember, Trump is allegedly worth $10 billion, which at the risk of stating the obvious means he is worth ten thousand million dollars. Someone in that position might be hard pressed to quickly produce billions of dollars or even hundreds of million in actual cash. But we’re talking tens of millions or even just a few million dollars he needs right now.

Trump may be stingy. He may be saying that the RNC should take responsibility for fundraising, which is something it’s clearly not capable of doing. (The RNC has massive fundraising capacity but it can’t simply take on singlehanded what the candidate was expected to raise.) But as big a disaster as Trump’s campaign is at the moment he stands a real shot at being the next president of the United States. It is simply not credible that he is standing on principle in not giving his campaign any more money at such a critical moment when his bid is being so deeply damaged.

The only credible answer is that it is difficult or perhaps even impossible for him to produce these comparatively small sums. If that’s true, his claim to be worth billions of dollars must either be a pure sham and a fraud or some artful concoction of extreme leverage and accounting gimmickry, which makes it impossible to come up with actual cash.

There’s a story going around that the RNC gave Mr. Trump a list of potential donors to call to raise money for his campaign, but after he made just three calls, he gave up.  There are a couple of reasons for his reluctance: his pride can’t stand the idea of him humiliating himself to ask for money, or the responses he got amounted to polite versions of Hell No.

Actually I think he’s rich on paper but in terms of liquidity he’s so stretched that he can barely get by on what he’s got now.  Imagine what it’s going to be like in three months.

Short Takes

Venezuela is circling the drain.

The Justice Department released transcripts from the 911 calls during the Orlando massacre.

The Supreme Court — with one notable dissentmade it easier for police to conduct searches.

Oakland has trouble keeping police chiefs.

Trouble in Trumpland.

Tropical Update: TS Danielle is heading across Mexico.

The Tigers beat the Mariners 8-7 in extra innings.

Monday, June 20, 2016

We’re Stuck With Him

David Atkins has some bad news for us: Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee.

The reality remains that the GOP primary election proved that there is very little constituency left for a more subtly bigoted GOP that serves up supply-side ideology on behalf of the wealthy while expecting middle- and working-class Americans to suffer their own economic exploitation with pride on behalf of Burkeian principles. There are very few who want or believe in that version of the Republican Party anymore. Removing Trump as the nominee would guarantee him leading his flock to sabotage the GOP up and down the ballot with utterly disastrous consequences. Nor does the GOP have much hope of of mitigating Trump’s influence on women and minorities: the genie is already out of the bottle, and in Trump’s wake dozens more candidates like him will use his more openly xenophobic, economic populist approach to win GOP primaries all across the country.

As for Trump making a convenient exit himself? Unlikely. While the Donald does hate to lose, he can always go all the way into November, get a thumping from Clinton, and claim that the GOP establishment stabbed him in the back and denied him a chance at victory. He can then spend the rest of his life as a kingpin of sorts, conning his devoted Alt Right flock in any number of schemes to increase his wealth and influence. If he exits now, on the other hand, he’ll fade into a lesser version of Sarah Palin.

Mr. Trump is a creation of the Republican Party based on the constituency that they created out of the wreckage of the Reagan/Bush era: vengeful, recalcitrant, petulant, and fully incapable of allowing anyone else to share power or governance in any capacity other than their own kind.  They created him, and we have to live with him and the consequences, at least for now.

That Would Be Fun

Via the Washington Examiner:

Justice Clarence Thomas, a reliable conservative vote on the Supreme Court, is mulling retirement after the presidential election, according to court watchers.

Thomas, appointed by former President George H.W. Bush and approved by the Senate after a bitter confirmation, has been considering retirement for a while and never planned to stay until he died, they said. He likes to spend summers in his RV with his wife.

His retirement would have a substantial impact on control of the court. The next president is expected to immediately replace the seat opened by the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, providing a one-vote edge in the court that is currently divided 4-4.

Should Thomas leave, that slight majority would continue if Donald Trump becomes president. If it’s Hillary Clinton, then she would get the chance to flip two Republican seats, giving the liberals a 6-3 majority.

And then we’ll hear the Republicans say that we have to wait until the next election…

Short Takes

Investigators begin inspecting EgyptAir black boxes.

Deadly heatwave and wildfires in the Southwest.

Angels block Westboro protestors at Orlando funerals.

U.K. prime minister warns Brits face “existential” choice in Brexit vote.

Trump says he doesn’t need GOP.

The Tigers lost two of three to the Royals this weekend.

Cleveland beat Golden State to win NBA championship.

Summer starts today at 6:34 p.m. EDT in the Northern Hemisphere.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sunday Reading

A Long Line — Bill Moyers and Michael Winship on the history of American demagogues.

There’s a virus infecting our politics and right now it’s flourishing with a scarlet heat. It feeds on fear, paranoia and bigotry. All that was required for it to spread was a timely opportunity — and an opportunist with no scruples.

There have been stretches of history when this virus lay dormant. Sometimes it would flare up here and there, then fade away after a brief but fierce burst of fever. At other moments, it has spread with the speed of a firestorm, a pandemic consuming everything in its path, sucking away the oxygen of democracy and freedom.

Today its carrier is Donald Trump, but others came before him: narcissistic demagogues who lie and distort in pursuit of power and self-promotion. Bullies all, swaggering across the landscape with fistfuls of false promises, smears, innuendo and hatred for others, spite and spittle for anyone of a different race, faith, gender or nationality.

In America, the virus has taken many forms: “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman, the South Carolina governor and senator who led vigilante terror attacks with a gang called the Red Shirts and praised the efficiency of lynch mobs; radio’s charismatic Father Charles Coughlin, the anti-Semitic, pro-Fascist Catholic priest who reached an audience of up to 30 million with his attacks on Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal; Mississippi’s Theodore Bilbo, a member of the Ku Klux Klan who vilified ethnic minorities and deplored the “mongrelization” of the white race; Louisiana’s corrupt and dictatorial Huey Long, who promised to make “Every Man a King.” And of course, George Wallace, the governor of Alabama and four-time presidential candidate who vowed, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

Note that many of these men leavened their gospel of hate and their lust for power with populism — giving the people hospitals, schools and highways. Father Coughlin spoke up for organized labor. Both he and Huey Long campaigned for the redistribution of wealth. Tillman even sponsored the first national campaign-finance reform law, the Tillman Act, in 1907, banning corporate contributions to federal candidates.

But their populism was tinged with poison — a pernicious nativism that called for building walls to keep out people and ideas they didn’t like.

Which brings us back to Trump and the hotheaded, ego-swollen provocateur he most resembles: Joseph McCarthy, US senator from Wisconsin — until now perhaps our most destructive demagogue. In the 1950s, this madman terrorized and divided the nation with false or grossly exaggerated tales of treason and subversion — stirring the witches’ brew of anti-Communist hysteria with lies and manufactured accusations that ruined innocent people and their families. “I have here in my hand a list,” he would claim — a list of supposed Reds in the State Department or the military. No one knew whose names were there, nor would he say, but it was enough to shatter lives and careers.

In the end, McCarthy was brought down. A brave journalist called him out on the same television airwaves that helped the senator become a powerful, national sensation. It was Edward R. Murrow, and at the end of an episode exposing McCarthy on his CBS series See It NowMurrow said:

“It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one, and the junior senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.”

There also was the brave and moral lawyer Joseph Welch, acting as chief counsel to the US Army after it was targeted for one of McCarthy’s inquisitions. When McCarthy smeared one of his young associates, Welch responded in full view of the TV and newsreel cameras during hearings in the Senate. “You’ve done enough,” Welch said. “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?… If there is a God in heaven, it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it further.”

It was a devastating moment. Finally, McCarthy’s fellow senators — including a handful of brave Republicans — turned on him, putting an end to the reign of terror. It was 1954. A motion to censure McCarthy passed 67-22, and the junior senator from Wisconsin was finished. He soon disappeared from the front pages, and three years later was dead.

Here’s something McCarthy said that could have come straight out of the Trump playbook: “McCarthyism is Americanism with its sleeves rolled.” Sounds just like The Donald, right? Interestingly, you can draw a direct line from McCarthy to Trump — two degrees of separation. In a Venn diagram of this pair, the place where the two circles overlap, the person they share in common is a fellow named Roy Cohn.

Cohn was chief counsel to McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, the same one Welch went up against. Cohn was McCarthy’s henchman, a master of dark deeds and dirty tricks. When McCarthy fell, Cohn bounced back to his hometown of New York and became a prominent Manhattan wheeler-dealer, a fixer representing real estate moguls and mob bosses — anyone with the bankroll to afford him. He worked for Trump’s father, Fred, beating back federal prosecution of the property developer, and several years later would do the same for Donald. “If you need someone to get vicious toward an opponent,” Trump told a magazine reporter in 1979, “you get Roy.” To another writer he said, “Roy was brutal but he was a very loyal guy.”

Cohn introduced Trump to his McCarthy-like methods of strong-arm manipulation and to the political sleazemeister Roger Stone, another dirty trickster and unofficial adviser to Trump who just this week suggested that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin was a disloyal American who may be a spy for Saudi Arabia, a “terrorist agent.”

Cohn also introduced Trump to the man who is now his campaign chair, Paul Manafort, the political consultant and lobbyist who without a moral qualm in the world has made a fortune representing dictators — even when their interests flew in the face of human rights or official US policy.

So the ghost of Joseph McCarthy lives on in Donald Trump as he accuses President Obama of treason, slanders women, mocks people with disabilities and impugns every politician or journalist who dares call him out for the liar and bamboozler he is. The ghosts of all the past American demagogues live on in him as well, although none of them have ever been so dangerous — none have come as close to the grand prize of the White House.

Because even a pathological liar occasionally speaks the truth, Trump has given voice to many who feel they’ve gotten a raw deal from establishment politics, who see both parties as corporate pawns, who believe they have been cheated by a system that produces enormous profits from the labor of working men and women that are gobbled up by the 1 percent at the top. But again, Trump’s brand of populism comes with venomous race-baiting that spews forth the red-hot lies of a forked and wicked tongue.

We can hope for journalists with the courage and integrity of an Edward R. Murrow to challenge this would-be tyrant, to put the truth to every lie and publicly shame the devil for his outrages. We can hope for the likes of Joseph Welch, who demanded to know whether McCarthy had any sense of decency. Think of Gonzalo Curiel, the jurist Trump accused of persecuting him because of the judge’s Mexican heritage. Curiel has revealed the soulless little man behind the curtain of Trump’s alleged empire, the avaricious money-grubber who conned hard-working Americans out of their hard-won cash to attend his so-called “university.”

And we can hope there still remain in the Republican Party at least a few brave politicians who will stand up to Trump, as some did McCarthy. This might be a little harder. For every Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham who have announced their opposition to Trump, there is a weaselly Paul Ryan, a cynical Mitch McConnell and a passel of fellow travelers up and down the ballot who claim not to like Trump and who may not wholeheartedly endorse him but will vote for him in the name of party unity.

As this headline in The Huffington Post aptly put it, “Republicans Are Twisting Themselves Into Pretzels To Defend Donald Trump.” Ten GOP senators were interviewed about Trump and his attack on Judge Curiel’s Mexican heritage. Most hemmed and hawed about their presumptive nominee. As Trump “gets to reality on things he’ll change his point of view and be, you know, more responsible.” That was Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. Trump’s comments were “racially toxic” but “don’t give me any pause.” That was Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Republican African-American in the Senate. And Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas? He said Trump’s words were “unfortunate.” Asked if he was offended, Jennifer Bendery writes, the senator “put his fingers to his lips, gestured that he was buttoning them shut, and shuffled away.”

No profiles in courage there.  But why should we expect otherwise? Their acquiescence, their years of kowtowing to extremism in the appeasement of their base, have allowed Trump and his nightmarish sideshow to steal into the tent and take over the circus. Alexander Pope once said that party spirit is at best the madness of the many for the gain of a few. A kind of infection, if you will — a virus that spreads through the body politic, contaminating all. Trump and his ilk would sweep the promise of America into the dustbin of history unless they are exposed now to the disinfectant of sunlight, the cleansing torch of truth. Nothing else can save us from the dark age of unreason that would arrive with the triumph of Donald Trump.

Buy Out  — Alexia Fernandez Campbell in The Atlantic on those of us who refuse to retire.

The term “gray-haired professor” may seem like a cliché, but there’s some truth to it. Academia has long had a disproportionate number of employees older than 65, and the average American professor is getting even older.The share of people older than 65 teaching full time at American colleges and universities nearly doubled between 2000 and 2010. College professors are now among the oldest Americans in the workforce. Job satisfaction, job protection due to tenure, and concern about their retirement nest eggs are all reasons they cite for sticking around longer. And while their experience is valuable in its own way, the cost of paying senior professors in an era of rising expenses and shrinking endowments has led universities to borrow a budget-cutting strategy from the corporate world: buyouts.A growing number of private and public universities are resorting to offering large sums of money to faculty and staff in exchange for early retirement (or, if they prefer, heading back to the job market). In the past year alone, Oberlin College here in Oberlin, Ohio; the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire; and the University of North Dakota, all offered some sort of voluntary separation-incentive deal to faculty members.

John Barnshaw, a senior researcher at the American Association of University Professors, says the financial crises of 2008 dealt a big blow to universities, which had invested much of their endowments in stocks and other financial products. “They started paying very close attention to their portfolios in a way they never have done,” says Barnshaw. “One of the ways they saw to save money was to offer retirement packages.”Oberlin College, an exclusive liberal arts college about 45 minutes from Cleveland, is testing out this cost-cutting strategy. I recently spoke to the president, Marvin Krislov, about the unexpected, end-of-semester buyout, which was offered to about a third of the faculty. Krislov says the college needs to offset expensive health-care costs and employee salaries. Additionally, he says that Oberlin’s commitment to offering grants and financial help to students from all socioeconomic backgrounds is a source of financial stress. Nearly half of Oberlin’s students receive some sort of financial aid. Tuition and fees, without aid, is about $50,000 a year.This is the first time the college has offered early retirement packages, says Krislov. Since about 90 percent of faculty is tenured, many end up working way past the traditional retirement age of 65. “[The buyouts] allow us to have more predictability in knowing who is going to be working and until when,” he says.

To take the buyout, employees must be at least 52 years old and must have worked at Oberlin for at least 10 years. The college will then pay their salaries for a year after they leave and waive health insurance premiums during that time.

One reason academia has seen so much aging has to do with federal law. In 1986, Congress barred employers from enforcing mandatory retirement ages, but colleges and universities were exempt for a while. They were able to impose a retirement age of 70 until the exemption expired in 1993. A recent survey of college professors now shows that 60 percent plan to work past the age of 70.

The buyout programs seem like a direct path to reducing the numbers of most highly paid employees. But it also poses a risk: When those professors leave, their tenure-track positions may be replaced with non-tenure-track ones, meaning that over time, the number of tenured positions on campus could plummet. Though tenure has its detractors, it also serves a valuable purpose: Tenured faculty can’t be fired without just cause, which is meant to foster academic freedom and innovation. The rise of tenured positions in the United States was a response to McCarthyism, when university professors were fired for real or imagined ties to the Communist Party.Over the years, the share of tenured teaching positions has been shrinking, while the percentage of part-time positions has increased. A report from the American Association of University Professors shows that, in the past 40 years, the percentage of professors in full-time, tenured positions dropped by 26 percent and tenure-track positions dropped by 50 percent. Meanwhile, academia has seen a 62 percent jump in full-time, non-tenure-track positions and a 70 percent jump in part-time teaching positions. Today, the majority of academic positions are part-time jobs.“Our concern is that those tenure-track jobs are not being replaced. That they are just hiring a bunch of part-time professors,” says Barnshaw.

At Oberlin, Krislov says he will not replace full-time, tenured positions with part-time jobs. But he might move positions to departments with more in-demand fields, though he wouldn’t say which ones.

One tenured professor taking the buyout at Oberlin is Roger Copeland, who has been teaching dance and theater there for 41 years. The 66-year-old professor (whose former students include Girls creator Lena Dunham) said he was surprised to get the offer as the semester came to an end.

“I was completely dumbfounded,” said Copeland, a few hours before signing the separation agreement. “I don’t think anybody suspected that the [financial] situation could be so bad.”

Copeland hadn’t plan to retire for at least another four years, but said he couldn’t pass up the deal. He says he understands why the college is doing it, and thinks it will inject the faculty with fresh blood and new ideas. “For what they pay me, they can get two people out of grad school,” he says.

About 85 people so far have accepted the buyout (16 are professors and all are tenured; the rest are administrative and professional staff), representing about 25 percent of all eligible employees, Krislov says. He expects this to save the college about $3 million per year, depending on how many positions are replaced. According to him, the goal isn’t to replace tenured professors with non-tenure-track faculty. “Our commitment to tenure and tenured professors is iron clad,” he says.

Your Prairie Home Companion — Cara Buckley on the retiring Garrison Keillor.

ST. PAUL, MINN. — Garrison Keillor was riding shotgun in a rented Chevy, motoring east through the steamy Midwestern heat.

His linen suit was appropriately rumpled — everything about this public radio legend suggests disregard for crisp lines — and his gangly legs were jacked up against the glove box, as he resisted suggestions to slide his seat back. Hitching a ride with a reporter from Minneapolis to his home here, he filled the yawning silences with a weird little singsong, “bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp.”

He had just spent hours rehearsing for the following night, May 21, when he hosted “A Prairie Home Companion,” at the State Theater in Minneapolis, before a packed, adoring crowd for the last time.

After more than four decades of hosting this homespun Americana musical variety program, which he created and which, in turn, created him, Mr. Keillor is retiring. He has done this before, in 1987, though that retirement ended up being a sabbatical. In 2011, there were rumors — baseless, Mr. Keillor’s people said — that he was thinking of abandoning ship then, too.

But this time, Mr. Keillor, 73, said he means it. He has named a successor and lined up meaty post-“Prairie” projects, among them columns for The Washington Post, a screenplay and a book. While he has a solo tour planned through the year, along with a “Prairie”-esque Labor Day weekend show at the Minnesota State Fair, he will host his final official “Prairie Home Companion” on July 1 at, of all places, the Hollywood Bowl.

“It’s very much real, and it’s simply a matter of wanting to rearrange one’s life,” Mr. Keillor said after we had arrived at his large, handsome Georgian house, and he had eased his stooping 6-foot-4 frame into a porch chair. “In order to do these things, I’ve got to clear out the big buffalo in the room, which is the show.”

At his home, Mr. Keillor looms, a melancholy presence, and doesn’t make much eye contact, keeping his bespectacled eyes averted under scraggly eyebrows. Rather than savor the conversation, he seems to cordially endure it. His mellifluous voice, likened to a down comforter or “a slow drip of Midwestern molasses,” feels warmly familiar to any public radio listener who has heard him sing “Tishomingo Blues,” which opens his show each Saturday evening.

Yet as familiar and cherished as “Prairie” has become to millions, it was always about Mr. Keillor’s fascinations, rather than the inner tickings of its host.

“It was never about self expression, never,” Mr. Keillor said.

Everything about “Prairie Home” — the Guy Noir and Lives of the Cowboys sketches, the spots for Powdermilk Biscuits and the Ketchup Advisory Board, the monologues about the fictional Lake Wobegon — sprang from Mr. Keillor’s imagination. But the man spinning the plates at the center of it all managed to stay a mystery, even to people who know him well.

“Garrison in person is quite different,” said his longtime friend, the writer Mark Singer. “Garrison does not express emotion in interpersonal conversations the way the rest of us do.”

Performers often cultivate alternate personas, but with Mr. Keillor the difference is startling. That night, onstage in Minneapolis, he was garrulous and affable, and afterward ventured out onto the sidewalk to meet his hundreds-strong admirers, many of whom feel they know him intimately.

As fans flocked around him, Mr. Keillor graciously deflected questions, directing queries back to the scrum. This helps him gather story ideas but also serves as a bridge from his onstage personality to his default setting, the introverted, removed man who seems miles away, even when you’re sitting two feet from him on his porch, eating the jelly beans he has set out.

“His gaze is often floating and takes you in from a strange distance,” said the writer and editor Roger Angell, who in 1970 edited Mr. Keillor’s first piece for The New Yorker. “He is certainly the strangest person I know.”

There is debate about whether Mr. Keillor should have exited a while ago. His weekly radio audience peaked 10 years ago, at 4.1 million, and has since dropped to 3.2 million. While that does not include listeners on Sirius XM, or the show’s three million monthly digital requests, many stations have dropped their Sunday repeat broadcast of his show.

“Prairie Home” captured a time, before tweets and Facebook posts, when people talked more over fence posts and pots of coffee but nowadays feels increasingly removed from many listeners’ lives.

“A lot of the conversation has been: ‘Did Garrison wait too long? Should Garrison have done this years ago?’” said Eric Nuzum, former vice president for programming at NPR. “The problem of ‘Prairie Home Companion’ is it’s part of public radio’s past, not their future,” Mr. Nuzum said. (American Public Media distributes “Prairie Home”; NPR member stations air programs from APM as well as from other distributors.)

Still, Mr. Keillor played an outsize role in shaping what public radio has become.

He was a pioneering force and taught public radio valuable lessons, Mr. Nuzum said. The live performances and touring built audiences and kept them connected and deeply loyal. That proved lucrative, as did sales of “Prairie Home Companion” recordings, books, clothes and tchotchkes. Mr. Keillor also became one of public radio’s earliest celebrities, appearing on the cover of Time in 1985.

“‘Prairie Home Companion’ came on the scene just as public radio was trying to figure out what its identity was,” said Ira Glass, the host of “This American Life.” “The fact that here was such a visibly weird, funny, idiosyncratic show opened up the space of other weird, idiosyncratic shows, like ‘Car Talk,’ and our show.”

Adored as he has been by millions, Mr. Keillor drove a few critics around the bend.

Detractors view “Prairie Home” as excruciatingly hokey, syrupy and dull. In a 1993 episode of “The Simpsons,” Homer bangs on the television — the Disney Channel broadcast the show in the late ’80s — hollering, “Be more funny!” In a withering review of Robert Altman’s 2006 film, “A Prairie Home Companion,” Rex Reed called Mr. Keillor “a myopic doughboy” and his program “a lumbering, affected and pointless audio curiosity.”

Yet Mr. Glass believes that many people mistake “Prairie Home” for quaint, homespun nostalgia, even though the tales from Lake Wobegon are, as often as not, richly emotional, contemporary and quite dark.

In recent monologues, Mr. Keillor has lambasted the gun lobby, told of people’s relatives being buried alive and mentioned a would-be suicidal woman left bald after she accidentally set her hair on fire in her gas oven, a presumably fictitious anecdote that is trademark Keillor: equal parts alarming, heartbreaking and funny.

“Like Howard Stern, Garrison Keillor created a packaging that nonlisteners took as real,” Mr. Glass said. “And the actual show is so much more complex, and human and complicated than nonlisteners think it is.”

Mr. Keillor has had health concerns, suffering a stroke in 2009, and, less than a week after the Minneapolis show, a seizure. But he insists it’s his other projects that compelled him to step away. After July, he will continue to have a small radio foothold, hosting “The Writer’s Almanac,” a stand-alone five-minute radio program he started in the early ’90s. And “Prairie Home” reruns will continue to air. Jon McTaggart, chief executive of American Public Media Group, the parent of American Public Media, said that as much as “Prairie Home” contributed financially, he has faith in the allure of the new version of the show and that “this transition has been planned for a while.”

Still, the future of “Prairie Home Companion,” and public radio, without Mr. Keillor remains somewhat of an open question.

Mr. Keillor’s handpicked successor, the folk musician Chris Thile, 35, who first performed on the show as a teenager, cheerfully admitted in an interview that it could all go down the drain if audiences reject him after he begins hosting on Oct. 15. Details are still being hammered out, but Mr. Thile plans to do musical numbers and comedy bits. There will be no Lake Wobegon.

 Doonesbury — Nobody knows more.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Party’s Over, Bernie

Time to call it a day.

Sen. Sanders gave it his all, but as in every election, someone has to get to all before the eventual winner, and he did.

I have a lot of friends who were passionate about the Sanders campaign and probably still are.  I know how they feel; I’ve been supportive of candidates who didn’t make it.  One of the first posts on this blog in November 2003 was in support of Howard Dean, and way back in 1968, at the ripe old age of fifteen, I was for Eugene McCarthy before he petered out and left the stage to Bobby Kennedy.  So I know about the disappointment and the feeling of “oh the hell with it.”

That is until you realize who is running on the other party’s ticket.  Richard Nixon was bad enough in 1968 and George W. Bush was dreadful in 2004, but Donald Trump is so far worse than either of them that it will take the light from Planet Apocalypse five years to catch up to him.  Giving him any chance to even get close to winning is terrible to contemplate and makes whatever slights, grievances, and hesitations anyone has about the way forward with the current presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party sounds petty and dangerous.

You may not like everything Hillary Clinton stands for or says.  We get that.  We got that.  But nothing seals an assurance that your concerns and beliefs will be heard and respected better than making your points and gracefully ceding the floor.

To put it in the vernacular of your native land, Brooklyn: So go already.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Blow, Winds and Crack Your Cheeks

We joke and make light of people “going crazy” and being “insane,” which is not a good thing to say when mental illness is a real thing and there are people who are dealing with those issues on a regular and permanent basis.  So that’s why I try to avoid labeling people when they do things that don’t fit into a predictable or reasonable manner.

But I’m beginning to worry about Donald Trump.  I don’t think he’s holding up well under the pressure of being the Republican nominee, and the way he’s been responding to criticism and bad news — things he’s never really handled well as far as I can remember — indicates to me that these incidences, which are a part of campaigning for office, seem to be really getting to him, and it’s telling in his outbursts against the press and his meandering, apocalyptic speeches.

The conventional wisdom was that once Mr. Trump won the primaries he would pivot to running a general election campaign and try to broaden his appeal to the rest of the electorate.  But if he’s pivoted, he’s gone in the other direction: he’s still trying to corner the market on the resentful and the enraged.

I’m not going to make some kind of diagnosis about Mr. Trump, but what has me worried isn’t his mental state but the fact that a large number of my fellow citizens seem to think that not only is this acceptable, they’re in favor of letting someone with this kind of temperament in a position of global power.  That scares me more than anything.